What the PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week 2016 wore last week was a cloak of confidence. The fashion week in Lahore, held over four days, was happily clad in a sense of security, magnitude and optimism that it has managed to achieve through a series of successful runs over the past few years. The lineup was impressive, hardly any collections were misplaced, and the juxtaposition of ready to wear, luxury pret and even lawn worked in cohesion with the keynote being industry development.
Designers have come into their own sense of identity and it was impressive to see them all stick to their personal ethos without much compromise. My top six (Nomi Ansari, Sania Maskatiya, Mahgul, Karma Pink, Khaadi Khaas and The House of Kamiar Rokni) is featured in the centerspread of this issue (Style pages 34-37) but there was so much style even beyond the very best.
Day One: Sana Safinaz, who opened fashion week with Sugar Rush, merged their sophisticated spirit with a young and peppy, sporty look for a younger clientele. Feeha Jamshed made a fashion week comeback with Bob Squad, a tribute to breaking stereotypes. Muse showcased luxury sportswear and their collection, #LastNight was an unapologetic distortion of proportions, assimilated in a fine way. Sara Shahid kept things subliminal with Exhale; hers was a flawless display of drapery done without the camouflage of embellishment. Bank Alfalah’s show of Rising Talent was a little underwhelming this year but it made an integral link between the upcoming and established designers, which is important. The finale from Maria B was interesting, attractive in the fact that it appeared like an inspired smorgasbord of some of Pakistan’s biggest names.
Day Two: This was a great day for fashion, with Nomi Ansari, Sania Maskatiya, Mahgul and Karma Pink making it to Top 6 list. Ali Xeeshan wasn’t far behind, with his theatrics providing much needed dramatic relief to fashion that tends to take itself a tad too seriously. Ali is someone who makes the landscape interesting, lending quirk and kitsch to the general sense of style. The fact that he turned up to Nabila’s after party in a terry robe and bedroom slippers (“I had nothing to wear!” he exclaimed mischievously) summed it up neatly. Nickie Nina, also showing on Day Two, were perhaps the only brand at fashion week that if never show again, would be too soon.
Day Three: Khaadi Khaas collaborated with Swarovski for a cool and contemporary fashion week comeback. Zonia Anwaar replayed her signature tribal vibe and while this young spark has the style sorts – her collection was well interpreted, accessorized and cohesive – she is yet to make an impact on the retail horizon. Saira Shakira were not as impressive as they usually are; their collection had finesse but it also had a severity that needed to ease up and relax for summer. Speaking of relaxed silhouettes, Zara Shahjahan hit the nail on the head with Sartoliast, her breezy and casual summer affair. HSY, who presented the grand finale of fashion week, brought out a heavy contingent of separates that were spearheaded by his near-perfect menswear.
Day Four: Deepak Perwani was the only designer to show on a day taken over by lawn and his was a tongue-in-cheek, political narrative, bringing the government’s inadequacies to the runway. It was a great, wearable and yet stylish collection that was a welcome prelude to the rest of the day.
The Pakistan Fashion Design Council has most definitely taken it upon itself to ensure the growth of an industry that had been restricted to the sidelines for too long. And by involving high street brands it is probably bringing revenue to the platform while allowing interested brands a chance at owning the spotlight. That said, what they brought to the catwalk was far from fashion forward. Other than HSY Limited, there was very little that justified these brands on a fashion week platform; jeans and tees aren’t exactly revolutionary runway ideas. The same goes for the lawn brands that took over Day 4. There were big names like Al Karam, Ittehad, Gul Ahmed and Warda and those with designer affiliations stood out but the rest was a humdrum of fabric instead of fashion. If textile brands are to show at fashion week then they should at least engage a designer to style their collection for the catwalk. Case in point: Nilofer Shahid for Ittehad Textiles.
There are over 300 voile/lawn brands in the country and it wouldn’t be over ambitious to see them breakaway into a platform of their own. Lawn alone is a two million dollar industry that needs recognition as well as space. It would also be refreshing to see potentially fashionable high street brands like Generation, Daaman and FnkAsia show on the high street carousal. Names like Hang Ten just didn’t cut it and made for very boring viewing.
The strongest element at fashion week, other than the collections, was the styling and credit has to be given to Nabila and her team of professionals for executing perfection every day. There were a myriad of hairstyles and a variety of experimentation with makeup that should actually be documented for the hair and makeup junkies amongst us. Whether it was a complex nest of herringbone braids or a hot pink dust of eye shadow, the ideas were numerous and aplenty. It’s also not easy to make aging and often unfit models look swanky so overcoming that challenge is a feat in itself.
When it came to the look of the event, one has to comment on the wide catwalk that was a toss between a football field and a skating rink. It looked different but not necessarily better-different. The problem: our models aren’t too tall and in perspective they appeared even more stunted. The collections comprised of sixteen outfits each and to see half a dozen models saunter on such a vast playing ground completely diffused the impact that the collections merited. There was no spotlight. Chanel shows, which are always conceptualized on runways this bigger (even bigger) are a show production, with an elaborate set and over sixty models on the catwalk at the same time. It needed shows of that magnitude to pull off a runway this big.
Activating PFDC Fashion Active
Along fashion week sidelines was the inauguration of PFDC Fashion Active, a space dedicated to mentor young and upcoming designers.
With this platform comes “the spirit of mentorship, through the seasoned experience of the PFDC’s executive council, event production, modeling and choreography teams, fashion styling expertise, photography, collection editing services and a panel of fashion and business experts to produce fashion content for brands,” Sehyr Saigol, Chairperson of the council, said in an introductory address. “Our concept is therefore not simply to have a space for shows; it is to mentor, add value to and expand the dimension of the ways exhibitions and shows can be produced and presented in fashion today.”
The platform has been established at the Mall One, right next to the PFDC Boulevard and the space also harbours the new PFDC offices, which bear testament to the council’s growth into an even more professional realm.
There are always a combination of elements that come together to make fashion week successful; content being key, there is council vision and planning, logistics, venue, model lineup (always room for improvement there) and of course the support system, in this case brand endorsements, that provide the financial pivot on which the system swings on. The most important thing for a fashion platform, beyond the revenue it pumps into the economy, is the influence it will have on the way women dress for the next six months. One is bound to see sports luxe find its way to stores (Sana Safinaz, Muse, Ali Xeeshan), prints will move beyond the banality of floral overdose (Feeha Jamshed, Deepak Perwani, Sania Maskatiya), silhouettes will be more confident in defining a contemporary yet Pakistani sartorial identity (Zara Shahjahan, Sublime), crystals will be the embellishment of choice (Karma Pink, Khaadi Khaas)…there is so much value that fashion week will add to the fashion narrative.
All this is possible because of the immense retail power that most of these brands have; it wouldn’t be wrong to say that fashion weeks in Pakistan have pushed designers into becoming accessible and relatively affordable. And the PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week, now in its ninth season, has proven itself to be a major influencer in the industry, managing to take fashion beyond the runway.